Friday, February 11, 2005

Career Insights

A few days late I know, but a recent Harvard Business School "Working knowledge" newsletter has a great interview with Monica Higgins based on her forthcoming book "Career Imprints: Creating Leaders Across an Industry"

What is career imprinting? Well she defines it as:
Career imprinting refers to the process by which individuals pick up or cultivate a certain set of capabilities, connections, confidence, and cognition due to their work experiences at a particular employer.

Career imprints are associated with particular organizations; they derive from patterns in the career experiences that people share as a result of working at that organization. Therefore, we can talk about certain capabilities, connections, confidence, and cognition that might be associated with having worked at GE during a particular point in time—this would be a "GE career imprint."

Why is this important? Well, certain companies (at certain times) are more likely to generate traits that lead success later on. Prof. Higgins highlights this:
I have collected career history information of the approximately 3,200 executives who took biotech firms public between 1979 and 1996; these data show that almost one quarter of these firms had someone on their IPO team who once worked at Baxter. Even after accounting for Baxter's size—Baxter was smaller than firms such as J&J that also spawned executives into biotech—Baxter generated a disproportionate number of leaders in the biotechnology industry.

This obviously has implications for recruiters (many will tell you they have used this technique for many year) but also to a company's talent management group. Of course just because someone is from X doesn't automatically mean that they are great, but getting a better understanding of the background of your top talent (compared to others) would be beneficial.